Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Ogilvie to Thomas Jefferson, 16 March 1815

From James Ogilvie

Columbia March 16th 1815—

Dear Sir,

I take the liberty to enclose a printed paper containing a brief outline of a literary enterprise, on the execution of which I have entered, in the College of Columbia.—It would I trust be quite impertinent to Say how gratifying and acceptable to me, the communication of any idea that may occur to you during its perusal, will be:—You will particularly oblige me, by mentioning the French authors not generally known1 who have illustrated the principles of Rhetoric.—

The object of my lecture will be an analysis of what may be stiled the Philosophy of Oratory: For such an analysis the speculations of Philologists & Rhetoricians have prepared the way.

The circumstances in which I make my first effort in this way are as propitious, as I can well desire.—

On opening my design, to the Trustees & the Faculty of the College of Columbia, it was not only unanimously but cordially approved: On the evening of the day2 after it was made known to the students, the college & the House of the President were illuminated: In making up my classes, the only difficulty arose from the limitation of the number of members which each was to include: unable to agree about the selection, the students unanimously devolved that thankless office, on the President, who altho’ he has made the selection, (so far as I can judge) with impartiality & discrimination, has not escaped giving offense to more than one.—As to pecuniary compensation, its amount being left exclusively to myself, & every disposition manifested to pay liberally, I deemed it on every account most proper in the first instance, if I erred at all, to err on the side of moderation.—

should my exhibition & examination at the close of the course, produce the public impression which I am willing to hope it may, I can readily raise the fee should I repeat the course.—

The expectation which you seemd confidently to entertain that peace would be speedily reestablished betwixt G. Britain & the U.S. has at length been realisd, & the event3 has I doubt not been hailed, by the most virtuous & enlightened inhabitants of both countries, with heart-felt & diffusive joy.

You will now, I trust be able to carry into effect your plan for the establishiment of a college in Albemarle:—I am very anxious to learn what progress h[as] been made in the business since I left Virginia.—Dr Blackburn (with whose4 character & mathematical attainments you are I presume acquaintd) is about to leave the College of Columbia in a few months & would I am sure ceteris paribus prefer a professorship in the Institution you contemplate, to any other that could be offered to him.—

Believe me to be,

Dear Sir, with profound respect & sincere affection your obligd & obt servt

James Ogilvie

RC (MHi); mutilated at seal; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello—Albemarle Va”; stamped; postmarked Columbia, S.C., 25 Mar.; endorsed by TJ as received 4 Apr. 1815 and so recorded in SJL.

The enclosed printed paper has not been found, but a version of it was appended to Ogilvie’s Philosophical Essays; to which are subjoined, Copious Notes, Critical and Explanatory, and A Supplementary Narrative; with An Appendix (Philadelphia, 1816). Addressed “To Students of the Senior and Junior Classes, in the College of Columbia,” it emphasized the importance of training in elocution; noted that when he arrived at South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina), no “distinct professorship of oratory and rhetoric” existed at any college or seminary in the United States; explained his proposal to offer a course of “Lectures on Rhetoric, and Exercises in Elocution, Criticism, and Composition”; stressed that it would not interfere with the school’s existing instruction and exercises and that it was offered with the full approval of Jonathan Maxcy, the college’s president; and specified that a class for from twelve to twenty seniors and another for from twenty to fifty juniors would meet twice a week for four months at a cost of $12 per senior and $6 per junior. The appendix to Philosophical Essays also included Ogilvie’s advertisement for the public exhibition & examination given at the termination of the same course and subsequent enthusiastic testimonials from faculty, trustees, and others.

1Preceding three words interlined.

2Reworked from “On the <day> night when I.”

3Preceding two words interlined.

4Manuscript: “who.”

Index Entries

  • Albemarle County, Va.; schools in search
  • Blackburn, George; professor at South Carolina College search
  • Blackburn, George; seeks professorship at Central College search
  • Central College; establishment of search
  • Central College; professors at search
  • Columbia, S.C.; colleges in search
  • education, collegiate; in rhetoric search
  • Ghent, Treaty of (1814); support for search
  • Maxcy, Jonathan; president of South Carolina College search
  • Ogilvie, James; letters from search
  • Ogilvie, James; Philosophical Essays search
  • Ogilvie, James; rhetoric class of search
  • Philosophical Essays (J. Ogilvie) search
  • rhetoric; study of search
  • schools and colleges; South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina) search
  • South Carolina; colleges in search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); faculty at search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); president of search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); rhetoric class at search